Uber is the future, and the future is now, but a group of neo-Luddites seeks to keep us chained to 20th century inconvenience. Entrenched taxi interests have viciously opposed app-based ridesharing companies like Uber and its competitors and are using every trick in the book in order to disrupt them.
But resistance is futile, at least in the United States. A 2014 Anzalone Liszt Grove Research study found that 60 percent of Illinois voters agree that “Uber should not be required to do more than it does now.” A similar result was found in a Portland Business Journal Poll, likely caused by consumer agitation over Portland’s decision to sue Uber, which resulted in the suspension of the company’s operations there since December. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has also found that Uber’s innovation helps reduce drunk driving. Furthermore, economists across the ideological spectrum agree that “letting car services such as Uber or Lyft compete with taxi firms … raises consumer welfare,” according to the most recent IGM Economics Experts Panel.
Most notably, the Seattle City Council in March 2014 voted to cap the number of drivers ridesharing companies could hire to 150 drivers per service. City councilwoman and unapologetic socialist Kshama Sawant argued that this was done to protect taxi drivers, however, an enormous backlash occurred, resulting in a suspension of the ordinance after 36,000 signatures resulted in a referendum.
For those uninformed about Uber, the beauty of its services lies in the simplicity of it all. The company is very 21st century: GPS technology is used in order to find drivers and arrange routes, social networking comes into play to hold both drivers and customers accountable by a rating system and all of this is linked through smartphones to ensure easy access.
As far as pricing goes, it’s basic economics. During times of high demand, prices rise in order to increase the supply of drivers and push demand back down in the long run, whereas times of low demand will decrease the supply of drivers but also decrease prices, which will eventually push demand back up.
But as simple as all this is, many politicians don’t get it, especially those of the European variety. The French government has been undeniably hostile to Uber by fining the company for advertising, shutting them down for the 2015 New Year, restricting drivers to a 15-minute wait after responding to a request and expressing little interest in attacks on Uber vehicles by disgruntled taxi protesters. Spain is no better and has banned the company from operating its ridesharing service altogether. But I suppose when you have a joke unemployment rate of 10.3 and 23.7 percent, respectively, such anti-business policies aren’t really surprising anymore.
If we listened to the Luddites 200 years ago, we would have prevented arguably the most important event in history — the Industrial Revolution. It would be a shame if we did so now. The convenience brought by flexible ridesharing companies far outweighs appeasing taxi unions and shamelessly-bought politicians who whack off to decades of dated transportation policy.